Wednesday, April 7, 2010

O's lose season opener in 9th inning

The Rays celebrate their walk-off victory over the Orioles in the 2010 season opener.

It felt like the 2009 season continued last night with the Orioles dropping a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the bottom of the 9th inning.

New closer Mike Gonzalez came on to close out the 9th inning and got the first batter he faced, fanning Pat Burrell. But then he got into trouble quickly. Sean Rodriguez singled, and then Kelly Shoppach (pinch hitting for Dioner Navarro) doubled. With runners on second and third and one out, Gonzalez intentionally walked Jason Bartlett and then Carl Crawford ended it with a game-winning double.

The Orioles never trailed during the game until the very end.

It was frustrating to watch the Orioles open up 2010 with a loss that was so typical of the Orioles in recent seasons. The Orioles were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. They squandered several big innings with impatient approaches at the plate, including bad at bats from Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada.

In the top of the 9th, the Orioles had a golden opportunity to pad their 3-2 lead. Atkins led off the inning with a double that would have been a home run in most stadiums. Cesar Izturis moved him over to third with a bunt and reached first safely. Then the brain farts kicked in. Brian Roberts hit a hard grounder to Evan Longoria at third base, and threw out Atkins, who was running home, by a mile. Why Atkins was running on contact with no outs, I don't know. Adam Jones then grounded into a fielder's choice, moving Izturis to third base. There was still a chance to get that extra run in. But Tejada lined out to left field to end the inning.

And with a 3-2 lead heading into the 9th, you just had that old familiar feeling that the Orioles were going to blow it. And they did.

There were some positives, however. Jones, Matt Wieters and Luke Scott all homered. Unfortunately they were all solo shots, and the Orioles failed to score any runs that didn't come via the long ball. Jones went 3 for 5 with a double, the home run and a single. And Felix Pie came within a foot of a home run, doubling off the right field wall.

Kevin Millwood pitched a solid 5 IP, with 5 K and 1 BB. He allowed 9 hits, but was always able to make a pitch to avoid the big inning. Matt Albers, Will Ohman and Jason Johnson all looked sharp in relief. They combined for 3 IP of 1 hit baseball and struck out 3. The bullpen was coasting until Gonzalez entered the game and blew the save and earned himself the loss in his first appearance as an Oriole.

Welcome to Baltimore, Mike!

So as 2010 begins, and the Orioles look to turn a new page on 12 losing seasons in a row, they actually took a page from any of those seasons and blew a game they should have won.

If the Orioles are ever going to leave the past behind, they'll have to find ways to win games like last night, instead of finding ways to lose them.

No comments: